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  • Jennifer Vanisko

Want to Advertise on TV? TV isn’t just TV, it’s an Alphabet Soup of Options


How to choose between OTA, Broadcast, CATV, STV, OTT, and CTV.

OTA? CATV? OTT? CTV? If this looks like Greek to you don’t be worried. These are technical terms all related to how television is transmitted into your home. For the regular Joe Schmo consumer watching TV is just watching TV, it doesn’t matter how that TV transmission got in front of him. However, for the advertising professional these terms are very specific and play an integral role in any advertising planning strategy.


Before we dive further into these terms, let’s review why television advertising is still considered the king of all advertising channels. There are lots of pros in Television Advertising, including:

  • Extensive reach, weekly TV reaches 90% of all adults 18+

  • Available to both local and national audiences

  • Ability to tell a story in a way that is not possible in print, text or audio only

  • Improved brand perceptions – TV advertising legitimizes brands lending to increased brand awareness and engagement

Now that we know the benefits of TV advertising, lets breakdown the alphabet soup above.


What is OTA?

OTA stands for Over The Air. This is as traditional as it gets for TV, think rabbit ears on top of TV sets. The signal is transmitted from your local TV stations over the air and received via antenna by the TV. If cable service is unavailable, you will still be able to watch local news and live sports through the antenna.


What is Broadcast?

Broadcast TV is another name for Over the Air TV (OTA) and terrestrial television. It is the most common form of television in the United States. Broadcast channels (think your big networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox…) use public airwaves to transmit programs to the end user.


What is CATV? CATV stands for Cable Television. Cable Television is a video delivery service provided by cable operators to subscribers for a set fee. The signal is transmitted into the user home via a coaxial cable or fiber optics.


What is STV? STV stands for Satellite TV. Satellite TV signals enter your home through a satellite dish. Satellite signals can be affected by weather making reception unreliable. One of the biggest STV providers is Dish and DirecTV.


What is OTT? OTT stands for Over The Top. OTT is used to refer to any video content that is not served to the customer through a traditional television system and delivered directly through an internet connection, this is also knowns as “streaming video.” It is like watching Hulu on a smart TV, from your phone, tablet, gaming console or home computer. OTT can be viewed anywhere. Some streaming services are free to the user and others are subscription based.


What is CTV? CTV stands for Connected TeleVision, which is really just a subset of OTT. Where OTT is how the signal is transmitted, CTV refers to the device the consumer watches it on. CTV is big screen TV watching, like watching Hulu on the family room couch.


As a potential advertiser, if TV is TV, why do I need to know the difference between OTA, CATV and OTT?

In regard to advertising, each method of TV transmissions is unique. Some methods attract certain target audiences more so than other methods and other methods might have a stronger presence in specific demographic areas. For example, OTT typically attracts a younger audience than OTA, however OTA has more live sports and local news. OTA also gives your advertising dollar more bang for the buck by delivering your message to an entire demographic area, which depending on your goal and target audience could be a good thing or just a lot of waste.


CATV can reduce advertising waste by targeting smaller geographic zones and specific demos based on a larger selection of network choices. However, CATV may not be common in rural areas where cable connections are limited or non-existent.


OTT can reduce waste even further targeting specific consumer types by adding demographic and lifestyle parameter segmentation. Also, OTT advertising is your chance to reach the ‘cord cutter’ and ‘cord nevers.’ It is estimated that by 2024 half of all internet users will use free streaming services and by 2025 free streamers will outnumber pay TV subscribers.


To further complicate things, purchasing advertising time for each method is completely different. OTA can be purchased directly from the local channel, whereas CATV is purchased from the cable giants like Comcast. STV can be purchased directly through the provider as well. On the other hand, there are literally hundreds of vendors selling OTT advertising each with their own dashboards and various levels of transparency and reporting. That’s a lot to properly vet.


Choosing the right methods for your campaign is a balancing act and requires the help of a knowledgeable media professional. A media planning agency, like A3 Media, knows all the differences and quirks of each method. We know when to use one method over another and when to use a blended approach. Media agencies have the expertise to plan and strategize a buying plan to reach your target consumer. By evaluating your goals, we can plan the right mix of OTA, CATV, OTT and maximize your reach and frequency.

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About A3 Media

A3 transforms media from an expense into a smart investment. Since 1997, we have successfully helped regional businesses launch new products, expand into new markets and increase sales through media plans that make every dollar spent do more. Our clients include brands such as Yuengling and Ashley Furniture. For more information about how A3 Media can help your digital marketing efforts, please call A3 Media at (610) 631-5500.